Take a Timeout . . . for Yourself!

When the fruit is scarcest, its taste is sweetest.
—Irish Proverb

For many parents, one of the hardest things to do is take care of ourselves, yet it’s also one of the most important. When we meet our own needs for rest, good health, connecting with other adults, and stimulating our minds, we take better care of our kids. The Irish proverb speaks truth: It’s when we’re at our busiest and most harried that returning to our “sparks“—the special talents or interests that give us joy—feels really great. Here are some tips on how to fit a bit of self-care into your day or week:

Tips for . . .

  • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • If napping isn’t your thing, or you don’t feel you have enough time to spare, read something just for fun when your young child naps: a magazine article, a chapter in a book, or a favorite blog.
    • Play some type of game (like Solitaire, a crossword puzzle, or Sudoku) every once in a while as an escape from your cares and as a tune-up for your brain.
    • Call a friend, your spouse or “significant other,” or a family member—someone who cares for you and makes you feel happy.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • Cultivate relationships with your kids’ friends by inviting them to play in your home. When you do this, your kids are more likely to play independently, and you increase the odds that your child will receive a reciprocal invitation at a later date.
    • Make “play dates” with parents alongside your child’s play dates, because parents of your kids’ friends will be part of your long-term support network.
    • Be firm about setting limits. If, for example, you want to shower in peace (without kids, pets, and everyone else invading your space!), let your kids know they need to find something else to do during that time and that you will be available once you are dried and dressed.
    • Set aside time away from your kids for an activity other than work. You need time to yourself, regardless of how delightful and fun your children are. By this age you can trust that they will be okay for a time in the care of other loving, caring adults or responsible older siblings.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Carve out regular family “self” time when everyone in the family does something just by her- or himself, whether it’s time to chat online with friends, read, watch a show, exercise, pursue a hobby, or nap.
    • When your child participates in activities with peers (whether formal or informal), coordinate transportation and supervision with other parents so that everyone takes a turn and then gets a break now and then.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Self-care when your teens are this age may mean finding time to be with them rather than finding time to be away from them. With your teen, make a list of things you both enjoy doing and commit yourselves to doing one of them each month together.
  • Do something unexpected for yourself! Sometimes parents need a little jolt of adrenaline to remind ourselves that we are individuals first and parents second. While adolescence is all about discovering who we are in the world, why we matter, and where we’re comfortable, that process never really ends. Now that your teen is exploring this territory, try it yourself: experiment with a new hairstyle, take up surfing, go back to school, or make a cheesecake in the middle of the week—whatever catches you just a bit off guard, but brings out your best!

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